This year, one of my projects was to try out freelance writing as a side-hustle. I did it for three months, from January to March.

It took me a while to work out how to get started, as many of the articles I read weren’t very helpful and others that I reached out to were not willing to share. Seeing as it is natural side-gig for bloggers I thought I would share how I got set up, and some of the things I learnt in this time.

Establish your blog first

Most freelance writing gigs will need you to have a published portfolio that you can link to, and a blog is the perfect way to establish this. Writing a blog will also help you hone your writing skills a little. I had my blog for over a year before I started freelance writing. You don’t necessarily need to blog on the same subjects that you end up writing on, but try and have at least a few posts that are well formatted, have a clear style and are informative (rather than ‘journal style’).

Sign up to an online agency

I read articles that recommended sites where you can ‘post’ your profile and wait for jobs, but these seem like a waste of time. Instead, I signed up to an online agency. They take a cut of your earnings (around 30%), but I think you get what you pay for. You won’t be sitting around waiting for clients, you can get better quality work, and you are protected in terms of getting guarantees of payment.

The process takes quite a while for reputable agencies. Expect a written application, creation of an online profile and a brief zoom interview. Also check that you are eligible to work for an agency before you apply, as many take US citizens only.

Freelance writing is WORK!

I wanted to try out freelance writing because I enjoy the process, but freelance writing is still work and it’s a lot different to creating your own content. And there’s nothing passive about it.

There are paying clients, deadlines and you have to write what people ask for. Some jobs are higher paying and you will need to go off and do a bit of research. You can’t pick specific topics, you can’t write at your own pace and you have to write in the style that is requested. It’s also common to get feedback and requests to make edits. I viewed this as a great opportunity to improve my writing, but you need to be prepared to negotiate reviews.

Having said that, you can control the jobs you apply for so you can pick more interesting subjects and avoid those with urgent deadlines.

You need to work out the cost/benefit

In my first couple of weeks, I took a couple of low paying, easy jobs to get my profile established. As I went on, I realized that I needed to work quite quickly to make these jobs worthwhile. I also worked out what my minimum job value was, and only applied for work that was above this value. It meant that some of the tasks were harder and required a bit more effort, but I preferred to do fewer projects like this rather than lots of low-skill low-value pieces.

Is it for me?

After three months of trying it out, I’ve decided that freelance writing isn’t for me at this stage in my life. The extra work and deadlines did add a bit of pressure, at a time when I’m already getting that in my regular job. I earnt a total of $1,200 USD during this time which helped me meet my first quarter savings goals, but I don’t think it’s something that I’m going to continue. The extra income hasn’t been worth it for me, and I’d rather lean into my full-time job and focus on my next promotion and career progression.

I did learn that it’s quite possible for me to earn money freelancing and to do this remotely if I wanted to. If I ever lost my job or needed to move country for some reason, it’s nice to know that I could step back into freelance writing and earn a living if I needed to.

I also have a bit of a fantasy that I would like to live on a boat and travel around the world, so it’s interesting to understand exactly what this kind of digital nomad lifestyle might entail. It’s certainly not like all Instagram pictures! It does require some real effort not only to complete assignments, but to manage clients and balance your current workload with applying for new jobs. I don’t think you could be 100% spontaneous and just take off for a week whenever you felt like it for example.

Still, it’s good to get a real taste of what I thought my ‘dream’ might look like. I’ve learnt that freelance writing is definitely a possibility, but that it’s quite a bit harder than I thought. For now, I’ll probably explore avenues that I have a bit more control over, and can be built up to create a passive income stream.

Have you ever tried online freelance work?